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**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
Burke & Hare were two serial killers who committed the West Port murders during the 19th Century, in order to sell their cadavers to Dr Robert Knox, of Edinburgh Medical College, for dissection in anatomy lessons. Whilst they initially supplied corpses belonging to those who died of natural causes, they saw how lucrative this could be and ended up murdering people in order to increase the frequency of their 'product'.
This 2010 film adaptation is not the first to focus on the Burke & Hare murders, but is the first to do so with a comedic slant. With a huge British cast, featuring cameos from comedians such as Ronnie Corbett, Reece Shearsmith, Stephen Merchant and Paul Whitehouse, there is a distinct Blackadder feel to the story, with the grim theme of grave robbing dealt with using elements of slapstick comedy.
The humour seems to be rather similar to the Horrible Histories books, and akin to the sort of theatrics you would expect to see in London Dungeon. The story seems a strange one to adapt into comedy and perhaps it would have been better to use a completely fictional tale, rather than attempt to fit a comedic story into pre-established facts, as it felt somewhat restricted as to where the plot could go by the true events.
Regarding the lead characters, there is a lack of screen chemistry between Andy Serkis and Simon Pegg and at times it leaves the relationship between the two seeming a bit false. It's missing the connection evident in the friendship between Simon Pegg & Nick Frost, in Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Perhaps if Frost had been cast as Hare, there might have been more life behind the characters.
Another issue with the film is the choice to film it as a dark comedy, considering they are true murders which occurred one hundred years ago. I wonder if in another hundred years, there will be comedies about the Moors Murderers and the Wests. It's strange how time seems to lessen the offensive nature of using real life tragedies to plot comedies.
Overall, this was an average film, which would appeal to fans of Sweeney Todd and Blackadder, who appreciate a darker edge to their slapstick comedy. Fans of Simon Pegg's work with Nick Frost and Edgar Wright might want to give it a miss, though, even if it reunites Jessica Hynes with her Spaced co-star.
This review originally appeared on my blog
This film based on the West Point murders in Edinburgh was released at Halloween, but I can't say that it was actually that scary. More of a semi-comical look into the lives of two well known murders in Edinburgh. William Burke and William Hare were Irish navvies, who were always trying to make a fast buck, they're schemeing always seemed to land them in hot water and if it weren't for the income from Mrs Hare's guest house they would all be stone cold broke. After returning from one of these schemes, they find Mrs Hare upset because one of her lodgers has died, which meant a loss of income. Tasked with disposing of the body, Burke and Hare realise that there is a market for cadavers at an Edinburgh Medical School. When they are given a good price, they realise that they might be onto a good thing. Cue the pair putting another lodger out of his misery, causing a huge obese man to have a heart attack and a whole host of waifs and strays disappearing.
I won't spoil the ending by telling all, but just as in the true story everything begins to unravel. I found Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis did a great job as these two characters. The story isn't a laugh out loud comedy, rather a dark, black comedy which will have you smirking rather than chuckling. The story itself is also quite predicatable, even for those who have never heard of the West Point murders. But on a positive note there are some excellent cameos from famous actors, as well as Bill Bailey as narrator and Ronnie Corbett as the Captain of militia. I think the film could have been better, but wasn't a total disappointment, not once did I want to turn it off, although I don't think I would watch it again!
All in all a good black British comedy, with rather convincing accents!
Following Run, Fatboy, Run, I noticed on the wikipedia page for Simon Pegg that Burke and Hare was due to come out, I missed it at the cinema and by the time I got to see the DVD, it had been a couple of years since I'd first heard about it. I'm quite interested in mysteries and legendary murders and was really looking forward to watching it but I can't say it lived up to my expectations.
The Burke and Hare tale is pretty interesting in itself, Simon Pegg and Andy Serkis are good comic actors and you'd think it wouldn't be hard to make a classic. The film is only loosely based on the murders, in the way that it changes some of the facts, which seems a bit unnecessary because the improvisations don't really improve it. There's a few funny lines and some funny physical comedy but the laugh out loud moments are limited to only one or two.
When Mr. Burke (Simon Pegg) becomes besotted with a dancing girl (Isla Fisher) in a pub who dreams about doing an all female version of MacBeth, the film begins to turn in to a bit of a love story and people wanting to watch a comedy or murder film will be a bit disappointed with this side-tracking story, after all - who wants to see a weedy ginger bloke trying to get it on!
The film does have a good soundtrack and it's quite wittily written, I found Andy Serkis as Mr. Hare particularly entertaining and the pair's Irish accents are reasonably convincing. Bill Bailey plays the role of quite a funny hangman, Jessica Hynes is quite convincing as a drunk and Ronnie Corbett is clearly one of the funniest actors in the film playing the part of the Captain Tom McLintock.
It's worth watching but it's not as good as I hoped and is not a film I would bother watching a second time.
Burke and Hare - did you know that they're not actually serial killers?
It's true. The definition of a serial killer requires there to be a motivation of psychological gratification. William Burke and William Hare, being motivated into their famous misdeeds by money, don't fit the bill.
This black British comedy tells their tale. Burke (Simon Pegg) and Hare (Andy Serkis) are Irish navvies who'd emigrated to Edinburgh during the early part of the 19th century, when "Auld Reekie" was known as "The Athens of the North". Both are down on their luck, and quite literally as thick as thieves. Hare's wife (Jessica Hynes) runs a lodging house, but when an elderly tenant dies owing money, the end of the couple's rental income spells financial ruin. However, a gap in the market unexpectedly arises. Edinburgh's University, needing cadavers to work and experiment on, reached an agreement with the authorities to have exclusive access to the only corpses deemed fit for dissection, those of executed criminals. This put Dr Robert Knox (Tom Wilkinson), a private anatomy expert of Edinburgh Medical College, at a disadvantage when it came to research - there were no subjects for him to experiment on - and thereby put a premium on the price of any dead bodies that could be provided to him.
Selling the body of the deceased tenant to Dr Knox, Messrs Burke and Hare agree a good price with the esteemed anatomist for any further dead bodies they can provide to him. The demand was there - what to do about the supply?
One of Hare's other tenants was a sickly chap, probably not long for this world, needlessly hanging on, when there was money to be had. Well, if the apple's not falling from the tree... where's the harm in giving the tree a little shake?
Before long, moral ambivalence slowly turns into a slippery slope, as business picks up and the cash comes rolling in. Burke's new found wealth attracts admirers, and he becomes enamoured with actress Helen M'Dougal (Isla Fisher) who's putting together an all-female production of Macbeth. Burke's persuaded to fund it, and the moral descent of the protagonist of "The Scottish Play" serves as a neat counterpoint to the downward spiral of his own conduct.
Although the ending is a matter of historical record, which you are all probably aware of, I'll refrain from going any further for fear of the usual cry of "spoiler" from those who don't know better. With performances from Ronnie Corbett, Bill Bailey and Paul Whitehouse to enjoy as added bonuses, this is a picaresque tale where our sympathies lie entirely with the conspiratorial duo as they justify to themselves their ever worsening conduct. The "supply and demand" line is, of course, trotted out as a moral argument rather than an economic one, in the same way arms dealers and drug pushers do, but there's also the added element of the good work and advances in science made by Dr Knox, which otherwise would not have been possible without their involvement. The connivance of the better classes in these seedy goings-on is given due and proper treatment, and while artistic licence with such tales is expected, the writers and director John Landis deserve credit for weaving their tale with commendable fidelity to historical fact.
It's a fun watch without being laugh out loud funny - in fact the only belly laugh I recall is at the sight of Hare doing his wife with his crooked top hat still on his head - and I recommend you watch it right through to the end of the credits. The grisly tale is treated with a touch of whimsy, never gets too graphic for the squeamish, and is not at all scary even though it was released over Halloween weekend. I don't know if Edinburgh has tours of the West Point Murders in the same way London does the Jack the Ripper walks, but if they do, I expect that this film will be providing them with a few more paying customers.
As soon as I saw this advertised I knew it was one I definitely wanted to see so last night me and my partner went to see it. The advert for the film made it look very funny so I was expecting it to be good! As the film has only just been released, it is only available to watch in cinemas so this is a film only review.
William Hare and Willy Burke are business partners in Edinburgh who will try their luck at anything (they reminded me a bit of the Trotter brothers)! The start of the film shows them trying to sell moss that will cure warts, however they are revealed as fraudsters as they are actually trying to sell cheese mould!
In Edinburgh there are 2 medical schools, both which need bodies to educate medical students. However, one of the Doctors has just bypassed a law meaning all bodies that come about after execution must now go directly to him leaving the other Doctor bodyless!
Burke and Hare see a brilliant business opportunity in this, especially when on of Hare's tenants dies. However, this body supplying is not as easy as the pair first predicted...
The film is set in the 19th Century, I have been watching (and enjoying) quite a few dramas set in this period recently so I was looking forward to this one and I am pleased to say that I was not disappointed.
The plot was different to anything I had ever seen before and I found it interesting. The film was also very funny. The pair were hilarious together - Hare being the ringleader and Burke just going along with whatever Hare said. The ways they went about acquiring bodies were very amusing as neither of them really had a clue what they were doing!
The plot flowed really well and there was always something going on, there were a couple of little sub plots aswell so there really was never a dull moment.
I loved the characters of Burke and Hare, they were a great comedy act and they had me laughing away to myself throughout the film, they really did remind me of a 19th Century Del and Rodney! One thing I did notice was that some of the supporting actors accents were not stable throughout - Burke and Hare remained Scottish throughout whilst some of the smaller characters sounded stronger at some points than at others.
The film lasted just over an hour and a half which I think was the right time. Any longer and I think it would have began to get a bit repetitive. The ending of the film was a shock to me and I was not expecting it!
The film was released in October 2010.
It stars Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher.
It runs for 91 minutes.
It is rated a 15 in the UK.
It is based on a true story.
A funny film, definitely worth a watch. 4.5 stars - dropping half a star for the accents.